Often times when I am elbow deep in laundry, up to my eyeballs in homework and at my limit with the running and wrestling and fighting I fantasize about what a brochure on parenthood would look like. Not the shiny glossy, 'life is always blissful' version of a brochure but the real nitty gritty, 'not for wimps' version ... that's the brochure I think pre-parents really need to see.
Before we become parents we all have an idea of what being a parent is going to be like. We've watched our parents raise us and we've had helpful shows like Full House and The Cosby Show to give a well rounded view of what to expect (notice tongue in cheek). We watch our friends become parents and see how glowy and happy they are with their new little family. It looks all sweet and warm and cuddly from the outside. They all leave out the scary parts, the parts where they are in over their heads, the parts when their child is screaming, puking and tantruming, the parts when they are overwhelmed, exhausted, clueless and would trade their child for just one good night's sleep. Those are the parts that make up the real brochure.
On the front cover of Parenthood: The Real Deal we would have a mangy, smelly, exhausted parent wearing dirty clothes and surrounded by toys, dirty dishes and diapers ... lots and lots of dirty diapers. Inside would be all the information no one tells you about, all the deep dark secrets of parenting that the survivors keep to themselves until its too late, until you are expecting, until you have a kid of your own and realize that there is no return policy.
Here's a few excerpts from the brochure...
"When my baby was about ten days old I stood in the shower, the first shower I can remember having since he was born, and cried. I was leaking from everywhere, I hadn't slept in a week and a half, the only relief I had from his crying was when I was nursing him. I felt like the life had literally been sucked out of me and in that moment of standing in the shower, leaking and crying, I wished more than anything that ten months ago I would have bought a dog instead of giving into the back rub."
"My daughter was the easiest baby ever. She hardly cried, slept through the night right from day one and never made strange with anyone. The whole first year of her life was a cakewalk. I think she was lulling me into a false sense of security because when she was about 2 1/2 everything change. Like a switch was thrown my sweet, easy going buddy turned into something you could base a horror flick on. She cried, threw grand mal tantrums and resisted every thing I did. The first time she threw her pajamas at me and screamed "No, I won't" I understood why some species eat their young."
"One of the happiest days of my life was the day I graduated from high school. It signalled the end of homework, projects, exams and disappointed teachers. I was free! And then I became a parent. Home reading started in Kindergarten, KINDERGARTEN! By grade three we were up to a half hour of homework a night and then there was projects and tests on top of that. I nearly had a nervous breakdown in grade six when we had to do our first science project and present it in front of the whole school. I was up half the night before the presentation cutting and gluing and going over the cue cards. I don't think I can survive high school for a second time!"
"I babysat a lot before I became a parent so I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I thought being a parent was like babysitting all the time. You know, feed them, get them dressed, play a few games with them and then put them to bed. Easy, easy, right? Are you kidding me?! Kids have needs, man! Kids need your attention ALL THE TIME. They need you to listen to them, to read with them, to explain everything to them. They need you to watch out for hazards and mean people and stupid things they'll do to themselves. They need you to be alert and on your A game. They need you to solve their problems, dress their dolls, build a puzzle, clean their rooms, match their clothes, be on their side, watch stupid kid shows with them, take them to the park, take them to school, pack their lunch, comb their hair, listen to them tell the same story a million times, laugh at their jokes, kiss their boo boos, cuddle them, love them. They NEED you - ALL THE TIME!"
Those are some of the stories that I would include in the real brochure. My goal is not to deter people from having kids, I just believe in full disclosure. Know what your gettting yourself into before you jump. Mostly, the point of my brochure would be to let the tired, grubby, overwhelmed parents of the world know that this is totally normal, you're not alone, everyone has days like this ... and most of us survive.